Israel appeared to be preparing for an anticipated ground invasion of the Gaza Strip early on Friday. This preparation included the evacuation of a major border town and the positioning of tank fleets along the border, where hundreds of thousands of soldiers were already stationed.
Israeli authorities had been issuing warnings for several days, indicating their intention to launch a ground invasion. They had amassed a significant force of over 300,000 troops along the border in response to a surprise attack by Hamas on October 7. During that attack, the terrorist organization caused significant casualties, resulting in the loss of at least 1,400 lives, primarily civilians, and the abduction of over 200 others.
Addressing the troops on Thursday, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant indicated that they would soon have a firsthand experience within Gaza.
Gallant’s gathering with the troops coincided with an announcement from Economy Minister Nir Barkat, who stated that the Israel Defense Forces had been authorized to proceed with the offensive in Gaza, an area spanning approximately 140 square miles between Israel and the Mediterranean Sea.
The terrorist group claims to be holding approximately 203 Israeli hostages in the network of tunnels it constructed beneath Gaza. Economy Minister Barkat has pledged that these tunnels will ultimately serve as a massive cemetery.
On Friday, as tanks were poised for action, there were also reports of intense airstrikes targeting Gaza. Israel has stated that it has struck over 100 targets associated with Hamas, including tunnels and weapons storage facilities.
Israel has evacuated its own communities near Gaza and Lebanon, relocating residents to hotels elsewhere in the country. The Defense Ministry has announced evacuation plans for Kiryat Shmona, a town with over 20,000 residents near the Lebanese border. The IDF is determined to significantly weaken the terrorist group, even if it takes a year, with the safety of hostages and civilian casualties seen as secondary concerns, as explained by Barkat.
As Israeli forces move into Palestinian-controlled territory, it’s anticipated that Hamas may employ terrorist tactics, such as placing snipers in the windows of residential buildings, using tripwires to trigger IEDs, dropping grenades on armored vehicles, and disguising their members as civilians. These insights come from Gen. Sir Richard Barrons, a highly experienced British commander with a background in counter-insurgency warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan. He also mentioned that the likelihood of completely eradicating Hamas is quite slim.